A trip on the Ring road around Iceland is all about incredible nature, big views, desolate roads and destinations where you can connect to nature. When you have decided that is what you want to do, why let the experience be limited by the vehicle you rent? Many tourists have already found out that if you rent a camper, you do get to see more on your own time. The ultimate camper you really can rent must then be a 4×4 camper which happens to be, for 2017, our newest addition to our fleet.
When you start exploring, driving to a secret hot spring you have found online or even wanting to explore the more remote places in the Westfjords, you will encounter rough, unpaved roads. Some of these roads will be too rough for anything except a 4×4. It should be mentioned that fording a river is not covered by any insurance so if you choose to do so and if something happens, it’s all on you and to try do so in anything else than a 4×4 is simply foolish.
Driving on rough roads, through puddles, streams or even slippery roads are done in the same fashion. You drive it carefully. You take your time, check the road ahead, avoid sharp rocks and big holes and you will be fine. Our only 4×4 Camper, the beautiful VW California Beach camper is the ultimate camper for exploring Iceland. There will be very few roads that will stop your trip and you can even pass the highlands in the summer by driving the famous highland road Icelanders call Kjölur, mountain road F-35. (see map below)
If you want to drive from Reykjavik to Akureyri over the highlands, it’s 408 km/254 miles and the bigger part is unpaved. It’s roughly a 7 hours trip if you drive it nonstop which you will not be able to do for you will stop here and there in awe and take pictures. The route on the map also takes you past Gullfoss and the geothermal area of Hveravellir where you can take a bath in the hot spring there, relax a bit before heading into “no man’s land” for you will not encounter any more houses or anything until you reach the north side. There is also a campsite up there, offering a great opportunity to relax and not having to hurry over the highlands. You’ll find showers, bathrooms and the hot spring guest can use at will. They also serve breakfast.
As mentioned, after Hveravellir there is nothing but the uninhabited highlands with it’s barren country and endless views. Places like these are rare. It’s even more rare you can safely pass them in ordinary cars (4×4’s) but despite the ease one can traverse the highway during summer, one really should make plans ahead. There are no cellphone coverage there and if you are lucky and you won’t meet a single car, help can be longer away than anticipated.
Before crossing the highlands, fill in your details at SafeTravel, a free service to help people in need. In case something happens to you, they will know roughly where you are. Make sure you fill up the car at the last gas station. The last gas station isn’t on this route. You have to make a small detour on road:37 and drive to Geysir. That will be the last one before reaching the north.
The VW California is extremely fuel efficient and one can easily drive from Reykjavik to Akureyri on one tank but you can never have too much fuel and it’s just common sense to fill up at the last station before committing to a spellbinding trip like this. As tempting as it might be to go off the road, it is strictly forbidden to drive off-road in Iceland and if caught, hefty fines will follow.
In this part of the country, there are many small peninsulas with small roads, to destinations off the bigger roads that are unpaved and where a 4×4 camper really can enjoyed. The main road around the Westfjords are suitable for any vehicle but it is those temping smaller roads, leading you to places where no tourists go that might have only sporadic maintenance making anyone more comfortable driving a 4×4.
The 4×4 function in the VW California is fully automatic (including the gearbox) so you only have to think of what’s ahead of you. Camping in the Westfjords is not a problem either for there are almost a campsite in every little village but if you find yourself in a beautiful area you just HAVE TO camp, find the nearest farmhouse and ask if you can stay the night. If you are planing a winter trip in these areas, we highly recommend a 4×4 camper for the snow can come fast and in big amounts.
Just like the Westfjords, north Iceland has a few peninsulas which are beautiful to drive around. The roads here are not as steep as in the Westfjords but they are most often not paved. Wherever you are in Iceland, there will always be tempting roads leading up on mountains or down to a beach where a 4×4 camper will be of great use and so it is with the northern side of the island. As with the greater part of the island, there are many campsites, many not registered anywhere, you’ll find them in this area too. If you want to camp “wild”, ask the locals and they will guide you to the right person who can give you permission to camp on private grounds. As always, don’t leave anything behind you, take your trash with you.
Instead of following the Ring road, we recommend you drive around any of the big peninsulas like going north of Sauðárkrókur, Húsavík or Raufarhöfn and take you time doing it. The views are just mind blowing and you will not meet a lot of other cars.
Read more: Changed camper regulations
Here you find endless of beautiful fjords and quite a few roads taking you over mountain passes but again, you’ll have to go off the Ring road to experience these. Many roads are paved here as there are villages in almost all of them but driving to the end of the peninsulas will, once more take you to wonderfully open, desolate landscapes, the very reason you are here. To be able to get to all places you want, drive over mountain passes, you’ll need a 4×4 camper. When you do go off the road, study maps to see if you can drive around, over where you are going so you can plan the time you need in case you are driving to a dead end and have to track back the same way you came. If maps doesn’t tell you the full story, ask a local and they will not only know but most of them will be very helpful too.
As always, there will be plenty of campsites to choose from. It’s almost a rule, if there is a village, there is a campsite.
The southern part of Iceland is where you’ll find the big open plains framed with big mountains and glaciers to the north and the ocean to the south. The Ring road is paved and so is quite a few of them when you drive into the interior like Gullfoss, Flúðir and that area.
As written here above, you can reach the highland road Kjölur from the south. It’s a fantastic trip to just do the Golden circle destinations and drive to Hveravellir from Gullfoss, spend the night and then drive back if you are not driving north. A trip requiring a 4×4. There are some F-roads on the south side that you can drive on but there are also F-roads too rough for anything else than buses and super jeeps. There will be signs telling you what you can or can not do. Please follow them!
There are also some nice mountain roads north og Þingvellir one can pass in a 4×4 during summer. All mountain roads are closed during winter but you can find the opening times here!
This are has quite a few very interesting places only reachable with a 4×4. Those roads are not usually long ones but takes you to some stunning places. Here you will find more camping sites on the north side of the peninsula as there are more villages there but there are some on the south side too. A must is to explore the national park which is the most west part but there are no camping there. You’ll find campsites just outside the park, both on the north and south side.
During winter the roads here can be very icy but in a 4×4, studded tires and careful driving, that doesn’t pose any problems at all.
Just east of the village Grundarfjörður you’ll find a very interesting lava field which is quite enjoyable to drive through. The road is slightly rough at times but you’ll find no problems passing it in a 4×4.
Driving around in Iceland in a 4×4 camper provides such a freedom not possible before. Your reach is so much more than in an conventional camper. The same rules applies as with any driving here. Know what type of weather is to be expected, know the road conditions ahead of time. Only camp in campsites unless you have gotten a personal ok from the landowners. Never leave anything behind you and never drive off-road. If you have any questions, please feel free to send us your inquiry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Safe travels #GoIceland
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